It is a sunny day with the thermometer sitting at 72 degrees with a nice breeze and even winds sometimes gusting to 25 mph. It’s late in the afternoon, skies are sunny with a few clouds, and just a perfect day for a walk. I’m glad I am at Marion’s Woods today.
The first bright spot of my hike is a goldenrod at the edge of the trail. Stopping to look, I observe many radiating brightness from their golden flowers that are scattered throughout the woodlands. As I paged through my field guide after returning home, I believe my field notes identify this goldenrod as the blue-stemmed. Goldenrods, like asters, can be a bit confusing to identify, but when time is taken to observe the detail, identification can be rewarding.
Sassafras leaves are beginning to turn their beautiful fall colors. This leaf I see is red, but other sassafras leaves can be yellow and orange depending on the weather factors. All colors, yellow, orange and red, can be on the same tree.
It certainly feels like a fall day as I walk and the sassafras leaves are but one fall sign I see. I also note the ripening fruit of the pokeweed. I noted this plant when it was in bloom earlier in the summer and now during the end of the growing season the fruit is ripe and striking! The drooping cluster of fruit turns a purplish black color on a bright red stem. The juice from the berry was used as a dye by native Americans and the early pioneers. As a child, I used the juice from the berries to write notes to the kids down the road.
Looking from the ground to the tree tops, I hear a red-bellied woodpecker calling and searching for insects among the vining of Virginia creeper leaves as they change from the green of summer to the fire red of fall. Moving strategically on the dead snag, it calls, it drills into the tree, it listens, it seems to find an insect; I observe and am intrigued by its behavior!
Turkey tail fungus growing on rotting limbs, white oak acorns littering the ground, and yellow leaves floating to the forest floor all remind me of the cool temperatures of autumn. As I walk to my vehicle, the sun’s angle in the sky is glaring and filters through the leaves of the forest making me squint for it is hard to see the trail. The next time I hike these trails the fall leaf color could be at its peak or all leaves could have fallen from the trees due to one rainstorm with high winds. Three more hikes for 2016 in this little parcel of property protection and I am sure each one will be as rewarding as the previous nine have been.
Rita Smith is a member of the Angola Tree Board.